Winning a competition starts from getting ready years and months before one. Especially a few hours before the game, anxiety can kick in - and that's completely normal - but there are physical and mental strategies to not let that get the best of you and perform at your highest level. Preparation is always an important factor for success. In this new episode of The Complete Guide, Helena Bourdillon, the deepest woman in England (CWTB), shares her tips on how to prepare for your first freediving competition.


First thing, when you train, train the same way as you would dive on a competition day. What i mean by that is you do your warm-ups and then you do a target dive; you do that dive as you would do on a competition day. This is going to create routine for you, which means on the competition day you just follow your usual routine. Get used to having a countdown, ask a friend to do the official style countdown before you dive in your training sessions. This is really useful because it helps you learn how to relax on demand. Sometimes when you're at the competition line you may only have two minutes of preparation and to know that you are able to relax just like that in two minutes is really relaxing and reassuring in itself. So get used to hearing the countdown and going when they say official top or before 30 seconds after that.


You're going to have to dive with the lanyard at a competition, so get used to it, whether it's on your wrist, on your ankle or you're wearing a CNF belt and the lanyard's attached to that. Get used to diving with a lanyard.

No Stress

24 hours before the competition you will have to announce what you're doing for your first competition dive and what i would really recommend you do for this is announce something that you know you can do easily and have done more than once. The reason for this is if you choose to go for a PB and it doesn't go well, it isn't a pleasant nice dive or as relaxing as possible,  it's going to hurt potentially your feelings about competitions in the future and you start with a base of stress and you really want to be competing without that base of stress and enjoying every dive that you do if you possibly can. So choose a dive that you've done two or three times really well at a depth you know you can do easily, there is plenty of time for personal bests in competitions at a later date.

The Night Before

Pack your bag and make sure you have all your essential items. There is nothing worse than arriving at the competition dive site to find you have left your computer behind, or your nose clip, or your neck weight, or your fluid goggles, or your wetsuit.  Pack your bag the night before, check you have everything you need, then when it's time to sleep, try and get a good night's sleep, not easy when you're stressed about competition, i've laid awake many times before many competitions and been a complete state, but now i know to at least practice my breathing to get some sort of rest, even if it isn't decent sleep.

Get A Coach

And by coach i mean someone who is there to support you throughout the preparation for your dive on the dive day and the dive, and just after it. A coach is someone who will keep track of the time, knowing when you can enter the water so you're not breaking the rules, when you can start your warm-up dive so you're not breaking the rules, they know when to start getting you ready to take you over to the competition line, they can help you clip into the competition line, they can use humor to help make you relax or motivational words so that to help you believe in yourself, and most importantly at the end of the dive, as you come back up to the surface, they will remind you in a very clear loud voice, saying your name, to do proper recovery breaths and to do the surface protocol in the correct order. Sometimes at the end of a dive it's really easy to get muddled or do things that you wouldn't normally do, so having that someone there shouting your name and shouting at you to breathe, to do your hook breathing, to do the correct surface protocol, is really useful. Get yourself a coach and if you have a bit of time practice with them for at least a session beforehand.

On A Personal Note

One thing i always try and do before i set off on my dives, is remind myself why i started freediving. I did it because i love the ocean, i love being underwater, i love the peace and quiet, and when i do that and i have a little smile on my face, i go into the competition dive and all of my dives are much happier and much more relaxed. So maybe try a little smile just before you set off.
Whatever color card you got for your dive is probably quite important to you,  but in the grand scheme of things it really isn't. My first competition was a three dive competition. My first dive i got a red card, my second dive i got a yellow card, my third dive i got a white card, and if i hadn't just told you that now, i would probably take that to the end of my days and no one else would remember, because it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. So try not to get too stressed about it.

And the final point! There may be some sort of award ceremony or party afterwards, so pace yourself, because whether you realize it or not, freedivers have a slightly lower tolerance for alcohol than they used to.


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